Author Greg Koukl
Published on 07/19/2019
Tactics and Tools

The Burden-Free Step in Discussing Christian Beliefs

Greg explains the importance of listening and encourages Christians to remember that the one who makes the claim bears the burden.


When we think about a tactical game plan, in other words, how we go about engaging someone in a thoughtful careful way that allows us to stay relaxed and keeps us from getting in trouble, in other words, keeps the risk level low, what I have in mind is a multiple step process. The first step is to gather information, and we can use some form of the question, “What do you mean by that?” The second step is what I call reversing the burden of proof.

Now the burden of proof is the responsibility someone in the conversation has to give reasons or evidence for a view. Now there’s a rule here that is applied to the burden of proof. And the rule is, the one who makes the claim bears the burden. If somebody says, “the Bible has been changed,” or “God doesn’t exist,” or “Jesus didn’t exist,” or “there are no miracles,” it’s not your job as a follower of Christ to jump in and show where the other person is wrong. It is rather that person’s job first to show why he or she is right. After we ask some questions to get more clarification, “What do you mean by that?” now we have a clear picture of what they believe.

Now we want to know why they believe it. This is where some form of the question, “How did you come to that conclusion?” comes in. What are your reasons for saying that? How do you know that’s the way it really happened? Do you have any evidence for that view? I’m interested in finding out. Notice with this second step of the game plan we are, in a sense, doing the same thing as the first step. We are gathering information, but we’re gathering a different kind of information. First, we get clarity on their point of view. Now we want clarity on why they believe what they believe. Notice that in this stage of the game plan, just like the first step, there’s no pressure on you. It’s relaxed. You’re being a student. You’re just listening to what the other person has to say. But the other person has to make clear not only their own view, but also the reasons for their view, and that’s why you shouldn’t be surprised when you get silence when you ask the question because most people have not thought through their views.

What I want to encourage you with, though, is that you have no obligation to go any further nor need you do that. You don’t have to get into theology, or apologetics, or philosophy, or anything. All you’re doing in the game plan with these first two stages is you’re still gathering information. You’re getting an education, and you’re in your mind deciding whether you’re in a position to go to step three. No stress on you. That’s one of the values of the tactical game plan.